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Property Vultures Pick Over Bulgaria Bargains

17 March 2009

Selling up to a vulture fund may not be the most pleasant option in the world, but for hundreds of British and Irish owners of Bulgarian property it is better than not selling up at all.

Dylan Cullen, of Dublin-based Appreciating Assets, has established a GBP 7 M fund and is now scouring the Black Sea and ski resorts offering a lifeline to distressed sellers.

Many are stuck halfway through their transactions, having paid up to 50% of the price of their holiday flats, but cannot find the finance to complete.

Since mid-December the group has apparently completed on 22 purchases and another 15 are pending.

‘He is by no means alone and a Dutch company is doing the same,’ says Sarah Jane Gouldbourne, a partner of the estate agency Property Invest, which soared during the boom years but is now dormant. ‘Typically, they pay EUR 400 a square metre on properties which sold for EUR 900.’

So far the Dutch company has spent EUR 370 000 for nine properties, and plans to spend EUR 500 000 more.

Cullen is paying between EUR 60 000 to EUR 70 000 for ‘goodsize apartments in a development with close proximity to the beach’.

‘Who can really condemn what he is doing?’ asks Ms Gouldbourne. ‘I come across developments where sales of half the properties have not completed because owners can’t raise the finance.

This at least means the schemes are finished and whole development survives. This has to be good for the whole market.

Cullen concedes that not all those who sell out to him are delighted by the price he offers. But then buyers of any description are thin on the ground in Bulgaria these days.

The offer is ‘not speculative or an aspirational figure, it’s a figure that is tangible’, Cullen has said.

The fund’s strategy is to collect holiday rental income for five to seven years, banking on the continued growth of the Black Sea’s tourism business.

‘We believe that anybody selling to us is happy with the price they’re getting,’ Cullen said. ‘People are more realistic than they’re given credit for.’

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